TECHNOLOGY

Study: Majority of customers will do holiday shopping in-store this year

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Proving that retail is not dead, 87% of customers plan to shop in physical stores this holiday season.

This was according to the “2017 Holiday Store Shopping Report,” from Natural Insight, a provider of enterprise cloud and mobile applications for retail merchandising and workforce management. The report surveyed more than 800 people aged 18 and older, randomly selected across the United States.

According to data, these in-store shoppers will encompass both women and men, aged 45-59 years old. By early December however, 93% of women will have completed the majority of their in-store holiday shopping, versus only 83% of men.

Only 12% of store shoppers expect to spend less than $100 in stores for the holiday season, and 60% of customers will visit stores so that they can touch and see the products before making a buying decision.

Even though they are headed to the stores this holiday season, some shoppers are not looking forward to the experience. In fact, 58% of customers listed large crowds being the top reason why in-store shopping is stressful. Not being able to find what they are looking for was named a close second, according to the study.

“Retailers have an opportunity to make a real impact by understanding why customers shop in-store over the holidays,” said Stefan Midford, CEO of Natural Insight.

“Some people want to get in and out as fast as possible, while others want to browse, get gift suggestions from employees, and enjoy the holiday decor and music,” he said. “In general, we learned that the experience must be personalized to win loyal customers.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Study: Companies may be doubling down on AI, but they remain wary

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

While a staggering 80% of enterprises are investing in artificial intelligence (AI), many anticipate significant barriers to arise.

This was according to new research from Teradata, which is based on responses from 260 large global organizations.

According to the data, one in three business leaders believe their company will need to invest more capital in their AI efforts over the next 36 months to keep pace with competitors. However, leaders are anticipating significant challenges when it comes to adoption. As a result, many are looking to strategize against those issues by creating a new C-suite position, the Chief AI Officer (CAIO), to streamline and coordinate AI adoption.

Once companies establish an AI roadmap and supporting team, the top three areas where businesses expect AI to drive revenue are product innovation/research and development (50%); customer service (46%); and supply chain and operations (42%). This mirrored some of the top areas of AI investment, which include customer experience (62%), product innovation (59%) and operational excellence (55%).

AI is already in production in 80% of organizations, although 42% said that there is lots of room for further implementation across the business. Meanwhile, 30% still believe that their organization isn’t investing enough and will need to invest more in AI technologies over the next 36 months to keep up with competitors in their industry.

Almost all respondents are anticipating barriers to adoption and ROI. Top concerns include barriers to AI realization (91%), such as a lack of IT infrastructure (40%) and lack of access to talent (34%). Other challenges include lack of budget for implementation (30%), complications around policies, regulations and rights (28%) and impact on customer expectations (23%). Only 19% view a weak business case for AI technologies as a concern, and only 20% are concerned about the impact of AI and automation on employee morale.

Despite these issues, companies are not slowing their pace of AI adoption. Why? Executives and IT decision-makers anticipate revenue increases (53%) and cost/efficiency savings (47%) from their AI investments. Only 28% of respondents said that their organization has enough trained people internally to buy, build and deploy AI.

While retailers anticipate needing a CAIO to coordinate and mandate implementation throughout the enterprise, the CIO (47%) and CTO (43%) are leading efforts today, but 62% of respondents plan to hire a dedicated a CAIO to lead the effort in the future.

Meanwhile, companies expect a 99% ROI in the next five years for every dollar invested today, and 187% in ROI over the next 10 years.

“There is an important trend emerging evident in this report — enterprises today see AI as a strategic priority that will help them outpace the competition in their respective industries,” says Atif Kureishy, VP, emerging practices at Think Big Analytics, a Teradata company. “But to leverage the full potential of this technology and gain maximum ROI, these businesses will need to revamp their core strategies so AI has an embedded role from the data center to the boardroom.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Study: Retailers are eyeing a jump in sales — and seasonal workers — this holiday season

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Optimistic that holiday sales will increase this year, retailers are stepping up their seasonal hiring plans.

This was according to a new Korn Ferry retailer survey. The study, which was conducted in September, is based on responses from 20 major U.S. retailers representing $160 billion in sales, and 1 million employees.

According to data, nearly half of the respondents (45%) said they expect to see an increase in holiday sales in 2017, and none of the respondents expect a decrease in sales. To meet this expected demand, 80% are planning to hire the same or more seasonal workers than last year.

Hiring additional seasonal retail staff may prove to be difficult, however. Forty percent of respondents believe there will be fewer applicants in the candidate pool this year, and 40% anticipate paying higher hourly wages. Specifically, 40% of participants expect minimum wage increases and market increases in the retail industry to exacerbate the situation.

“Despite rocky times this year with brick-and-mortar store closings at near-record levels, a relatively strong economy is expected to bode well for retailers this holiday season,” said Craig Rowley Korn Ferry senior partner, consumer and retail. “However, competition will remain fierce and retailers must come up with innovative approaches to win over consumers and keep them loyal.”

To help differentiate themselves in the marketplace, 20% of respondents said they are placing a greater emphasis this year on hiring employees who align with their brand culture. Meanwhile, 15% said they are placing a greater emphasis on the in-store retail experience.

“While 75% of respondents say they will use their mobile platform to help drive sales this holiday season, it’s clear that they still are focusing on the traditional in-store experience,” said Rowley. “But that experience is changing by becoming more intimate and tailored to the specific demands of the shopper.”

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